In a strange, subtle way, this week has played its part in redefining the practice of Australian politics. It began with another national opinion poll showing an unchanged trend of clear majority support for Kevin Rudd and Labor. No recent frantic gesture by the government toward a range of previously reliable issues seems to sway this steady body of opinion. It is almost as if issues of policy and political content are no longer the point of the discussion, as if the public’s desire for change pure and simple has overwhelmed all other considerations.
But change to what? Labor under Rudd is happy to be defined by not much more than a clever t-shirt and a brace of Facebook friends. On hard issues of policy it ducks for the cover of the government’s tested position. Labor wouldn’t close the Mersey hospital. Labor wouldn’t wind back the Northern Territory intervention. And when it comes to the economy, Labor just wants to be Liberal, or at least that’s how Peter Costello puts it. The rest of us get his drift.
The fact is, Labor doesn’t seem to want to be anything that attracts attention. Which seems a funny way to win a nation’s confidence. Or perhaps it’s just the best way not to lose it.